Since we’re now entering the dubious era of President Donald Trump, and since my profession is now being called fake, and since I wear a variety of hats these days while creating too many run-on sentences, I figure it’s time to come clean about who I am.
Maybe then you’ll consider my words and opinions for what they are.
You see, there are people out there who think reporters, editors and opinion writers like me are all part of a vast conspiracy to misinform and manipulate you, the lowly masses. And while it’s true we sometimes suffer from a pack mentality, it’s borne from the perspective our work gives us, not some organized effort to create a new world order. If there’s a media conspiracy out there, I’ve never been invited to the meetings.
I’m what you might call middle management. I don’t own stock in any of the media conglomerates that now own most of the presses and broadcast stations in our country, and I’m nothing special on the internet. I’m just an old-school newspaperman, one who’s being dragged into the posts and tweets of this modern media age. I just hope I can retire before it becomes a workplace requirement to have a computer chip embedded into my capacity to think and do for myself.
When I became old enough to dabble into my great American freedoms, I did so with a bleeding-heart passion to help make the world a better place for all. I didn’t have to dodge the draft because the Vietnam War was lost by the time I came of age, so it took me a while longer to lose my innocence. I started out loving people, especially the downtrodden and the powerless, and that led me to the deep end for a while—as a community organizer for a few years in my 20s.
Mostly, though, I was just a loudmouth working stiff into my 30s, before turning my attention to earning a college degree and falling in love with journalism.
I also fell in love with a foreigner while in college and became very much a family man in the years that followed. I started out my “provider” years as a newspaper reporter, which didn’t pay squat, and gravitated toward editor’s work, which paid a little better but still squat, and then to publisher, which paid better than squat. Over the years I slowly “moved up” at newspapers in Arkansas and Kentucky, before coming here to New Mexico a dozen years ago.
I never got to a big metro, partly by choice but mostly because my opportunities kept coming from the smaller newspapers and the muckety-mucks who owned them. I never got to sit down with a sitting president, but I’ve lunched with governors and have called a lot of mayors by their first names. Newspapering is local, and that’s where I’ve made my mark.
Also along the way, I started a news-sharing service called the New Mexico Community News Exchange, or CNEx, which I still run for about a dozen newspapers around the state. I write this column to supplement the service and because I enjoy being able to write what I want and pass it around. If my newspaper pals don’t like it, they don’t have to run it; and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to read it.
My day job, however, is running the editorial department at the Roswell Daily Record as its editor. I supervise about a dozen people who do the time-honored grunt work of producing a daily news product for our readers. They can tell you better than me how good I am at my job, but this I can say for sure: After a quarter century of newspapering, the ink is in my blood.
Do I have my biases? Of course! That doesn’t mean I can’t be fair and accurate—watchwords in my book for good journalism. These days I mostly write analytical and opinion pieces, and I do so with a commitment to tell and interpret the truth as best I see it.
And, yes, there are times that I just like to stir things up, just to make people think, to create “talkers.” Sometimes I do that very well; other times, not so much.
I would go on but too many run-on sentences have used up my allotted space, so I’ll close with this: I am what I am—real, not fake—so take me for what I’m worth. Hopefully, you’ll find me to be at least a good read.
Tom McDonald is founder and editor of the New Mexico Community News Exchange. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.